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Sen. Durbin asks feds to look at rail delays

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin wants federal rail officials to look at delays along the Amtrak route from Carbondale to Chicago and blocked rail crossings in the Chicago suburbs.

Durbin asked the federal Surface Transportation Board on Thursday to look at what he says are problems with Canadian National trains blocking suburban rail crossings and causing Amtrak delays, according to the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers.

Durbin's office says there were more than 5,250 crossings blocked for more than 10 minutes during the first quarter 2014.

"CN has failed communities across Illinois, from the suburbs of Chicago that have experienced a record number of blocked rail crossings to towns in Central and Southern Illinois that must face repeated delays in Amtrak service," Durbin said.

Amtrak supports Durbin and says the delays inconvenience riders and affect its business.

"Poor on-time performance is unacceptable to Amtrak passengers, employees, management and other stakeholders," Amtrak said in a statement Thursday. "It creates a major inconvenience for our customers and impacts the business through decreased ridership, lost revenues and higher operating costs for Amtrak, and for the states that sponsor routes."

Illinois taxpayers paid about $42 million this fiscal year to subsidize Amtrak service along the Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Carbondale lines.

Canadian National spokesman Patrick Waldron said Amtrak on-time performance in Illinois and blocked crossing have both improved since winter. He also said Canadian National has provided the state of Illinois and Amtrak with proposals to add capacity and reduce passenger delays.

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